Published 12:00 am Friday, March 1, 2013

CHARLOTTE — There is no easy path to the CIAA championship, but Livingstone charted an uncluttered course to the tournament semifinals Thursday night.
The Blue Bears made themselves right at home at spacious Time Warner Cable Arena, where they shot 49 percent from the field, knocked down 11 of 16 three-point attempts and collected a 95-70 quarterfinal win against St. Augustine’s.
“I did not know that they would shoot the ball that well in this arena,” coach James Stinson said after upstart Blue Bears (21-5) added another gem to their jewelry box of a season. “I don’t think they knew it either. The question was asked, ‘Did I teach them how to shoot?’ No, that wasn’t it.”
Whatever it was, Livingstone — the Southern Division’s toip seed — advanced to tonight’s 7 p.m semifinal against Elizabeth City State, a 65-63 winner over Johnson C. Smith earlier yesterday.
All-conference junior Mark Thomas earned the game’s MVP award after shooting 8-for-14 from the floor and pacing all scorers with 25 points. He added four assists and four steals.
“It did surprise me a little bit,” Thomas said after sinking four 3-balls. “ But we played here last year so it was all kind of normal. Coach was being modest. He definitely taught us how to shoot.”
Livingstone couldn’t miss in the early going. It converted nine of its first 10 three-point tries and showered St. Aug’s (16-12) with an avalanche of sharpshooting.
“They hit some really deep threes right off the bat,” said losing coach Lonnie Blow, Jr. “You make those shots you’re obviously dialed in.”
Livingstone’s Jody Hill scored 15 of his 18 points in the first half as the Blue Bears surged ahead. His 3-pointer from the right corner with 8:26 on the clock gave the Blue Bears a 32-19 edge. Omar Ford-Bey and Darius Welch added LC’s eighth and ninth home run balls of the first half it built a 47-32 lead at the break.
“We didn’t think it would be this easy,” teammate Tyler Johnson said after contributing 13 points and six assists. “All those threes, that made my job a lot easier. I told them to take the shots and I’d get the rebounds, but they hardly missed.”
The onslaught continued in the second half, when Livingstone made half of its 32 shots from the field. It led by as much as 92-65 when Anthony Welch converted the second of two free throws with 2:29 to play.
“Our game plan was not to come here and bombard people with 3-pointers,” Stinson said. “We just concentrated on executing, making sure we contested shots and rebounding. I’m not saying we’re the best team here, just a team here.”
A team that’s one step closer to a championship.
NOTES: Elizabeth City State (17-10) beat LC 80-79 in double overtime on Jan. 10.

ST. AUG’S (70) — Woods 24, Johnson 11, Chamblee 7, Stroman 6, Joel Kindred 6, Jon Kindred 6, Crawley 6, Baber 2, Watson 2.
LIVINGSTONE (95) — Thomas 25, Hill 18, Anderson 14, T.Johnson 13, Ford-Bey 8, Turner 7, Espinosa 3, D.Welch 3, Adams 2, A.Welch 2, Godlock, Flint, Bailey, D.Johnson, King, Sanders.
St. Aug’s 32 38 — 70

Livingstone 47 48 — 95